Promise of free health care draws thousands

I expected to find the proverbial huddled masses at the free health care clinic that’s been going on for the last two days at Bartle Hall. I was sure there’d be down-on-their luck homeless people. The wretchedly sick, decomposing-on-their-feet folks with wild hair and wild eyes who materialized out of the gutters to get their boils or teeth checked.

I was very wrong.

Granted, there were some of those folks, but by and large, the people who waited for free health care look just like everyone else.

Craig Dietz, D.O., M.P.H., clinical director of Kansas City Free Health Clinic has been traveling around the heartland on the free health care tour. Kansas City is the fourth and final stop (for now). He said 80 percent of the patients here were employed — at least part time.

Most patients don’t have health insurance, he said, and that’s for a variety of reasons. “Even the people that work for corporations that offer insurance are opting not to take it right now because the economy is so bad they need the extra $200 or $300 per month to pay mortgages, credit card bills, food and utilities.”

I was there around 2 p.m. and didn’t necessarily find Dietz’s assessment to be true: Most of the folks I interviewed had been laid off recently, and if they had benefits to begin with, they didn’t anymore. Most of them knew what their health problem were, they just hadn’t been able to get treated.

Twenty-seven-year-old Shneha Friar sat in the chair area and looked again at her purple bracelet bearing number 432 as she waited for her number to be called. She lost her cosmetology job a year ago. “I haven’t had health insurance since I had my second child,” she said. That was in 2006. “It’s hard to get Medicare.”

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